How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills
How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills
The importance of listening is under estimated, whether you are dealing with work colleagues, family problems, or supporting a loved one through a difficult time, actively listening can breach all barriers, lower stress levels and enhance communication.
When we are actively listening (really listening) it is far more rewarding for all parties involved in the conversation, It increases the speakers feeling of worth and can reduce the risk of misunderstanding which often leads to conflict.
There are many benefits to good listening skills including:
- Larger numbers of friends and social networks
- Increased self esteem and confidence levels
- Better academic performance (higher grades in school etc)
- Better health and general wellbeing
Tips To Improve Your Effective Listening Skills Fast
Always Face The Person Talking And Have Eye Contact
Although eye contact is important in a conversation too much can be a little intimidating so adjust the level of eye contact to the person/people and the situation.
Eye Contact Tips:
- Every 4 or 5 seconds break eye contact
- You may prefer to look at one eye for 4 or 5 seconds and then look at the other eye for 4 or 5 seconds, then look at the mouth or face (all areas show you are actively listening)
- When you look away, look sideways or up. Looking down is a sign that you don’t want to listen.
- Have an open posture – don’t cross your arms or legs, these can make you appear defensive, closed to conversation
- If you are sitting down, a slight forward or sideways lean shows that you are listening, as can other gestures such as slightly tilting your head or resting your head in your hand
Take Notice Of Body Language (Non Verbal Cues)
Never underestimate the power of body language, it doesn’t lie. Tone of Voice, facial expressions and gestures reveal just as much in a conversation as the spoken word. For example, is the person you are talking to?
- Happy and smiling, frowning and sad, or does their facial expression show anger
- Do they have their arms crossed in a defensive posture?
- Do they appear tired or upset; are they rubbing their eyes etc?
When you interrupt the speaker it can be very frustrating. Not only does it break the flow of conversation it shows that you are not really listening and you think that what you have to say is far more important.
If you naturally think and speak at a faster rate than the speaker, slow down and allow the speaker to fully express their point of view. Practice active listening and wait for the appropriate time to respond.
If you interrupt by responding to something the speaker said steer the conversation back to the speaker by saying something like “you were telling me about that…”. This will stop the conversation getting side tracked.
Don’t Jump To Conclusions And Never Judge The Speaker
Emotional reactions get in the way of good listening, they can prevent the listener from really hearing and/or understanding what is being said. Try to focus on listening without judgment and don’t assume you know what the speaker will say next.
Don’t Plan Your Next Piece Of Conversation While The Other Person Is Talking
You cannot prepare and listen at the same time. This will also show in your body language/facial expressions and let the speaker know that you really have no interest in the conversation
Show People That You Are Listening
- Look at your watch
- Look at your phone
- Play with your hands or hair etc
- Look at the ground or use a closed posture
- Interrupt or change the conversation
- Nod your head
- Acknowledge with “yes” “uh uh” etc, this shows that you are actively listening and will encourage the speaker to go on
Don’t Force Your Opinions Or Solutions
Usually if someone is going through a tough time they want to get things off their chest and express how they are feeling. If this is the case actively listen and show support, but never give your opinion or a proposed solution unless asked.
You may ask the speaker if they would like to hear your opinion or solution, but respect their answer if it is no.
Listening and supporting can be far more rewarding than trying to tell someone what to do.
Ask relevant questions, this will help clarify what is said and show the speaker that you are actively listening.
Paraphrase And Summarize
Also known as reflecting – repeating what has been said shows that you have been actively listening and gives the speaker a chance to correct anything that you don’t fully understand.
A good way to practice this is to wait until the end of the conversation or an appropriate time within the conversation and start a sentence with something like “ It sounds like you are saying…”
Learned behavior/habits can be hard to change but the more you do it the easier it becomes.
Use these active listening tips for a week and be sure to summarize the main points of each conversation. This will fast track your way to being a great active listener.